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Photo and text by Chris Rogers, Winona Post. Reprinted with permission.
The Winona City Council voted unanimously today to offer the job of city manager to Chad Ubl, the city’s longtime parks department head and the acting city manager since last October. The city manager is the city’s top staff position, overseeing a $58 million budget and a staff of 174 employees.
“I’m humbled by the confidence the City Council has in me to do this position. I’m excited to be in the role as city manager,” Ubl said, adding he looks forward to working with the community to continue making Winona a great place to live.
Ubl began working for the city as a facilities coordinator in 1997 in the parks department and moved his way up the department, becoming community services director in 2006 — a role that oversees the parks, park maintenance and library departments — and serving as assistant city manager starting in 2016. He spearheaded numerous recent and upcoming projects — the Historic Masonic Temple Theatre, Levee Park, the Riverfront Trail, and the Bluffs Traverse — and collaborated with local organizations to fund improvements to Sobieski Park Pavilion and the inclusive Every Child’s Dream Playground at Lake Park.
“I’m very excited to offer Chad this job. I think he has put in the time with the city. He’s committed to the city,” City Council member Michelle Alexander said. “I think he’s worked closely with many city managers and mayors and has a good perspective. And I think his previous job in Park and Rec. may have been a pretty challenging job because you have a small budget, but you’re providing many services that people rely on and enjoy.” She added, “He’s really the public face of the community, outdoors, and arts aspects that make Winona a wonderful place to live.”
“Chad is going to do a great job,” Mayor Scott Sherman said. “I don’t think anyone could question his experience and knowledge of the city and its operations.” He continued, “I’m looking forward to seeing him grow into this position and really let his style of leadership shine.”
Earlier this spring, the City Council decided to consider Ubl for the position before seeking other applications, and they voted to offer him the post after a roughly hour-long interview today.
There is another step before Ubl will be formally appointed. The City Council directed Sherman and Alexander, the council president, to negotiate an employment contract with Ubl for the City Council to approve at a future meeting.
During the interview Ubl spoke about listening to the community and communicating with the City Council. “The City Manager needs to have a constant and open line of communication with the mayor and council. Without that, we’re not going to be successful,” he said.
As City Manager, Ubl will lead the city’s budgeting process and be the ultimate decider of what budget items are recommended to the City Council. After a difficult financial situation forced the city to cut staff positions last fall, the council and Ubl have expressed hopes to reinstate some of those positions while avoiding deficit spending that prompted the city’s recent financial pains. “If we want to continue to provide the many services that we do, obviously that takes people. And that’s going to be a concern, how do we address those operational concerns in the city budget?” Ubl said.
Asked about his approach to leadership, Ubl said, “My style is, again, open communication … We may disagree or there may be an issue that we need to resolve, let’s sit down and talk about it.” Referring to a previous comment about how as a leader, it’s important to be respected, not make everyone like you, he continued, “I think that’s where that respect comes both ways … I understand your viewpoint. You understand my viewpoint. We disagree, but I respect your decision.”
When the time came for Ubl to ask questions of the City Council, he asked each council member about their top priority for the city manager. Several talked about communication with the council, communication with the public, and the budget. City Council member Pam Eyden told Ubl, “I hope you’re not afraid to make changes. To be an admin means to essentially keep the ship floating and keep things working really well. But I would be proud to see our city move forward in ways that take a little bit of courage.”
Originally published online by the Winona Post on February 17, 2022, https://www.winonapost.com/news/winona-city-council-offers-ubl-top-job/article_8b96b394-9044-11ec-9439-07ad0dc70cf0.html